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NYS DOT, federal government sign Record of Decision allowing community grid to replace I-81 viaduct

i-81 record of decision.jpg
Scott Willis
NYS DOT Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez and I-81 project director Mark Frechette stand near the I-81/I-690 interchange near the Erie Canal Museum.

It’s official…all of the regulatory hurdles have now been cleared for construction to begin later this fall on the I-81 replacement project. State DOT Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez made the announcement Tuesday.

"Today, the New York State Department of Transportation and the US Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration have signed a formal record of decision for the I-81 Viaduct project."

Dominguez says the now $2.25 billion project to replace the 1.4 mile viaduct through downtown with a community grid represents a generational opportunity for the city of Syracuse and the surrounding communities. Project director Mark Frechette says the DOT has already put phase one of the project out to bid, which includes widening and interchange work on I-481 from the northern interchange with 81 to I-690.

"We're down to three contractor teams. If you go on our website and you take a look at our, our contractor teams, you see a lot of contractors that work in this area that are in the process of bidding that."

Frechette emphasized that community engagement will continue as the massive project moves forward.

"Just because we get to the record decision does not mean that we put our head in the sand and we just blindly go forward. DOT will be involved every step of the way to manage the project through the end of the design phases, into the construction phases, we'll still be working with the community. We'll still have outreach."

Frechette says they’ll be working with all the stakeholders, including the city of Syracuse, the city school district, Onondaga County, Syracuse University, and the NYCLU among others.

He says the record of decision is the final decision on the plan to replace the viaduct with a community grid, which he calls the best decision for the region. It marks the end of a nearly nine year process when the state DOT first put out the “notice of intent” to work on an environmental impact statement. Community discussion of replacing the viaduct began years before that.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at